By John Zaw
Myanmar officials have refuted media reports that Myanmar would resettle thousands of Rohingya living in Bangladesh, insisting that the Rohingya were not ethnic nationals of the country.
This comes just days after Bangladesh officials announced an agreement with Myanmar to resume the repatriation process, which has been stalled since 2005.
U Thant Kyaw, Myanmar’s deputy foreign affairs minister told state media that while Myanmar said it was considering the return of 2,415 Myanmar nationals, the two countries never used the term “Rohingya” during discussions.
“With regard to the term Rohingya I explained to the state minister for home affairs during our meeting that we have never had ethnic nationals called Rohingya according to the official list of indigenous ethnic groups of Myanmar as well as our historical records,” Kyaw was quoted as saying in state media on Thursday.
Myanmar officials said they agreed to form a joint committee to re-examine the cases of the 2,415 refugees. It was not certain Myanmar would accept them, country officials said.
Despite being neighbors, Bangladesh and Myanmar have had thorny relations over the Rohingya people, who are mostly Muslims. When Myanmar last halted repatriations in 2005, it did so without offering any specific reason.
Myanmar considers the Rohingya as illegal immigrants from Bangladesh and has strongly resisted offering them citizenship, yet they are equally unwelcome in Bangladesh.
In western Myanmar’s Rakhine state, they have frequently been subjected to systematic abuse and violence at the hands of extremist Buddhists. The United Nations Refugee Agency termed Rohingya people “the world’s most persecuted minority”.
Since 1978, thousands have fled, many to Bangladesh’s Cox’s Bazar district where around 30,000 Rohingya reside in two official camps, relying on government and NGO aid for survival. As many as 300,000 reside in unofficial makeshift camps, under strict restrictions on movement, according to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees.
U Hla Win, a Rakhine State Hluttaw representative for Myebon, told The Myanmar Times that he welcomed the government’s decision to resettle Myanmar nationals from Bangladesh. He said members of several ethnic groups are living in poor conditions in refugee camps in Bangladesh.
“The government should not only invite them to come back, but also make sure there is a plan for resettlement and rehabilitation,” U Hla Win said.
“The government should also check very carefully whether they are Myanmar citizens because others are waiting to take this chance to become Myanmar citizens,” he told The Myanmar Times.
Source: eurasia review